Sunday, 31 August 2014, 07:37pm
Zimbabwe stun Australia
Australia will wonder what might have been after skipper Michael Clarke, making his return from a hamstring injury, had to cut his innings short on 68 but the Baggy Greens were well below par as they finished on 209 for nine - their lowest ODI score against Zimbabwe.
With spin causing problems for both sides Nathan Lyon took four for 44 to threaten Zimbabwe's chase, but captain E lton Chigumbura, 52 off 68 balls, and Prosper Utseya, 30 off 28 balls, steered them to victory with 12 balls remaining.
Their last ODI win over Australia might have been in 1983, but the hosts also banished a more recent hoodoo as they crossed the 200 barrier for only the second time in six matches.
Clarke, who pulled up at a practice session before the start of the series, was forced to enter the fray sooner than he would have liked as Aaron Finch (11) was bowled in just the fourth over.
The 27-year-old was caught in two minds as John Nyumbu's delivery spun in from outside off, but he was soon joined by fellow opener Phil Hughes, who was fooled by Utseya's spin and edged to Nyumbu at slip to walk for 10 off 30 balls.
Clarke then looked on as George Bailey (one), Glenn Maxwell (13) and Mitchell Marsh (15) followed them back to the clubhouse to put Australia in trouble on 97 for five, but undeterred the captain brought up his steady 50 off 81 balls in the 33rd over.
The 33-year-old started to forge a strong sixth-wicket partnership with Brad Haddin, but that was cut short on 50 when Clarke had to withdraw in visible discomfort having scored 68. He was able to briefly return at the end of Australia's innings - without facing - and also came out to field midway through Zimbabwe's reply, but his side face a nervous wait to discover if he is fit enough to face South Africa on Tuesday.
It got worse for Australia when James Faulkner went for a golden duck to Utseya with the first delivery after Clarke's departure and Mitchell Starc (three) followed five balls later to Sean Williams, but Haddin stepped up to anchor their innings.
He bravely opened up and found a willing partner in Ben Cutting as they raced to an eighth-wicket stand of 51. Cutting was run out on 26 with the first ball of the last over and Haddin fell three balls later, lofting Donald Tiripano to long-on, with Lyon - alongside Clarke - finishing eight not out at the end of Australia's below-par innings.
Progress was slow for the hosts initially as Sikandar Raza became Lyon's first victim of the day, with a thick edge to slip on 22, before Tino Mawoyo (15) doubled the off-spinner's tally to leave Zimbabwe on 44 for two after 13.3 overs.
Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor combined to add 56, before Zimbabwe's chase was dealt a blow when three wickets fell for just six runs at the halfway stage.
Masakadza (18) was first to fall as he was beaten for pace by Starc, before Lyon bowled Taylor (32) and made Williams (four) his fourth victim, with the hosts needing 104 off just over 24 overs.
Chigumbura's presence was a stabilising influence for Zimbabwe, who were 54 runs short with three wickets and just under 12 overs remaining after Malcolm Waller was caught and bowled by Maxwell for 11 and Tiripano (three) became Starc's second victim.
Chigumbura brought up his 50, with four boundaries, in the 46th over as he and Utseya had Australia on the ropes, moving to within just 11 runs of their target with 24 balls left.
Utseya sealed the win in style by smashing Starc over the ropes at deep mid-wicket to take them to 211 for seven with time to spare.
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Elton Chigumbura's half-century was vital for Zimbabwe